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Being Productive Is About Using The Morning Well. Here’s The Trick You Should Start Today.

Being Productive Is About Using The Morning Well. Here’s The Trick You Should Start Today.

Being productive can be hard. Perhaps you’ve fallen into a routine of getting up at a certain time, getting into work and slumping down at your desk or place of work with no energy, motivation or direction. We live in a society where procrastination is literally at our fingertips with social media and access to smart phones causing endless distractions and taking away our focus.

However, there is a way to achieve this – a way to achieve optimal performance and productivity – that can change your whole outlook on the traditional work life and transforming each day into a happier, more productive and flexible option.

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It’s All About The Mornings

If you’re not a morning person then it may be time to change your mindset – research has found there is an ideal structure to your day that creates optimum results and also the flexibility we crave when we’re stuck in our 9-5 framework. The problem with our current 9-5 tradition of working is that it forces us to work at times when our brain isn’t motivated. We have the mindset that we have a long day to get our work done which causes our brain to go into relaxation mode and it becomes harder to focus.

Like exercise, our bodies gain better results when we do short, intense periods rather than long, drawn out methods. It’s then in the recovery process where growth occurs – like muscles recovering after an intense workout.

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So what does this mean? Well, the best way to achieve optimum work productivity is to focus intensely for the first 3 hours of your day. This is the optimum time that our brains work – straight after sleep when willpower and self-control is at its maximum.

How The First 3 Hours Can Save Your Day

It may not feel like it when you first wake up but your energy levels are at their optimum following sleep and these energy levels are gradually depleted as the day progresses meaning it’s harder for you to focus and make decisions.

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How often have you dragged yourself to work and headed straight for the coffee machine because you can’t possibly function until you’re at least on your third cup of caffeine? This is where you’re potentially going wrong – the first 3 hours of your day will ultimately make you or break you.

It’s during this period that you can power through and make the most of your day. Creating a routine where the first 3 hours are intense periods of work, with pure focus and no distractions will actually cause you to complete the majority of your work at a more optimum level leaving the rest of the day for your brain to relax and deal with less taxing projects.

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In fact, if you liken it to exercise, doing a 3-hour intense work period will cause you to reap the benefits later on in the day because the rest of the day will become a recovery period. After exercise, this is when your muscles start to recover and get stronger, and similarly after working your brain intensely for 3 hours, the recovery period afterwards causes the mind to loosely wander and creative ideas and inspirations start to enter.

How To Implement The 3-Hour Morning

Your morning is the key to a successful day so it’s best to start getting into a morning mindset. That means getting to bed at a reasonable time managing to get a full night’s sleep so you wake refreshed and ready for the day.

  1. Wake as early as possible: Try and start a routine of getting up early because the more hours you have in the morning, the more time you have to be productive for the rest of the day. It’s not actually as hard as you think, after a couple of weeks your body and mind will start to get used to early rises and it will begin to become second nature (especially when you realise the true benefits).
  2. Eat a good protein-rich breakfast: It’s essential that you start the day with a good eating routine and that means the right kind of fuel for your brain and the rest of your body so you can work at your optimum level first thing. A protein-rich breakfast will help regulate blood-sugar levels and stop hunger pangs later on in the morning.
  3. Avoid stimulants: Getting up early, you’ll be tempted to grab that cup of coffee but avoid anything that will wake you up unnaturally. A good way to wake up is to switch your water to cold in the last minute of showering to give you a boost.
  4. Meditate: Meditation is an amazing way to focus and clear the mind and doing this first thing will help calm your whole body and set your mindset up for the morning. It helps give clarity for any goals you have or even bring inspiration to a problem you might be having. You can do this before you leave the house, on your commute to work if you have one, or once you arrive at work.
  5. Put away all distractions: The beauty of getting up early is that there are less people to distract you or cause you stress. Make sure you put away your phone and make a conscious effort not to check social media or emails for the next 3 hours. Listening to a song on repeat or music such as sounds of nature are a good way to help focus the brain and stop outside noises from interrupting your concentration.
  6. Once done, take a mental break and notice the calming difference and sense of achievement: This may seem like an unconventional way to use your mornings and possibly take time to get used to, but it’s all worth it for the sense of achievement and efficiency you’ll feel. The chances are this act of focusing for 3 hours will have caused you to get much more work done than a whole typical day put together. After the 3 hours, go for a walk and take a break – your mind will feel relaxed which will then be the optimum time for creativity to occur allowing the best ideas to come to you.

So remember to protect your mornings. Some of us will find this hard especially if, say, you have kids to run around after or have a particularly long commute but adopting the mindset of making your mornings precious and distraction-free can help structure a much more productive and happy day.

Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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